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Boris Johnson calls for general election on October 15 as further defeat looms

Moments earlier MPs approved a backbench Bill to delay Brexit in order to prevent a no-deal withdrawal from the EU next month.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons (PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons (PA)

By Harriet Line, PA Deputy Political Editor, and Sam Blewett, PA Political Correspondent

Boris Johnson has confirmed his desire to hold a general election on October 15 – as he looks set to be defeated on a crunch vote on his plan.

After legislation designed to prevent a no-deal Brexit cleared the Commons, the Prime Minister told MPs that the country must go to the polls next month to decide who to send to Brussels to “sort this out”.

Mr Johnson, opening a debate on triggering an early general election, said: “I think it’s very sad that MPs have voted like this, I do, I think it’s a great dereliction of their democratic duty.

“But if I’m still Prime Minister after Tuesday October 15, then we will leave on October 31 with, I hope, a much better deal.”

However, his bid is unlikely to succeed at this stage without Labour support to reach the required two-thirds majority in the Commons.

Moments earlier, MPs approved a backbench Bill to delay Brexit in order to prevent a no-deal withdrawal from the European Union on October 31 after Mr Johnson suffered further parliamentary defeats on Wednesday.

PA Graphics

It cleared the Commons when it passed its third reading by 327 votes to 299, majority 28, and should now progress to the Lords – but the timings for that debate remain unclear.

Following a moment of confusion, an amendment seeking to give MPs a vote on Theresa May’s final Brexit deal was also passed.

Labour MP Stephen Kinnock’s amendment was approved after tellers for those voting against the amendment were not put forward during voting.

A Government source said it was a “free vote so no one put tellers in”.

Mrs May’s final offer, the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, emerged from cross-party talks earlier this year, but was never put before Parliament because she was ousted as Tory leader.

Tory former Cabinet minister Dame Caroline Spelman became the latest MP to rebel against the Government, when she backed the Bill at its second and third reading, but will not have the party whip withdrawn.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Bill designed to prevent a no-deal Brexit must be passed through the Lords and have received Royal Assent before it will entertain the thought of a general election.

He said: “Let the Bill pass and have Royal Assent and then we can have a general election.”

A Downing Street spokesman earlier said the PM will not resign to force the country to head to the polls if the Government lost the Commons vote, telling a Westminster briefing: “He’s not going to step down. He wants an election.

“We will find a way to deliver on what the British people want, which is to deliver Brexit by October 31.

“If the PM cannot get the Bill through Parliament because Parliament is determined to wreck the negotiations, the only other option then is a general election.”

The spokesman refused to say what steps the Government would take to secure a general election if it loses a vote on calling a ballot, but said Mr Johnson believes going back to the public is the only option if Parliament votes to delay Brexit.

At his first Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson called the legislation a “surrender Bill” which would “wreck any chance of the talks” to achieve a new deal with Brussels.

The Prime Minister has insisted he will not ask for a delay beyond October 31, and challenged Mr Corbyn: “Can he confirm now that he will allow the people of this country to decide on what he is giving up in their name with a general election on October 15 – or is he frit?”

Mr Corbyn questioned the Prime Minister over reports that his strategy in Brexit talks is to “run down the clock” ahead of the deadline.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister faced a backlash over his decision to throw Tory rebels out of the parliamentary party after their disloyalty in Tuesday night’s vote.

Mr Johnson removed the whip from 21 Conservative MPs after they voted against the Government in order to allow time for the backbench Bill to be debated on Wednesday.

Those sacked include Philip Hammond, David Gauke and Rory Stewart – all of whom were serving in Theresa May’s Cabinet just weeks ago. Party stalwarts Ken Clarke and Sir Nicholas Soames, Winston Churchill’s grandson, were also dismissed.



From Belfast Telegraph